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Book on Basic Cooking for a Vegetarian?

I'm looking for a cookbook for my dad who has in the last year or so become a vegetarian and, in that some time frame, taken over cooking duties in my parents' household. My mother is at the mercy of his fledgling cooking skills and has suggested as a Christmas idea, a good solid book that has the nitty gritty of cooking, measuring, etc., aimed at the new *vegetarian* cook. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated!

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  1. Well, what kind of food is he looking to make? What kinds of foods does he and his family like to eat? Getting just a regular Italian cookbook with yield dozens of veg recipes. A Veg Italian cookbook will yield even more, of course. I love the Real Food Daily cookbook . . . although I've only tried to do 3 of the recipes so far, I've made those 3 scores of times.

    Is your dad eager to cook (ie, willing to play around in the kitchen a bit and have fun experimenting), or, is this a grudging acceptance of his new duties? Indian cooking looked intimidating to me at first, but with only about 10 spices in one's cupboard, you can make a million dishes quickly and easily, and can easily swap your favorite vegetables into pretty much any dish in this cuisine.

    If I had to guess at one book that might be a good fit, I'd suggest, "How to cook everything vegetarian," by Bittman.

    8 Replies
    1. re: santamonica811

      +1. i clicked on this post specifically to suggest Bittman's book.

      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        +2. I do like Bittman's book. I also have Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" and I like that too. I often go between the two of them when I'm trying a new ingredient, say.

        1. re: LNG212

          ah, yes! i also have - and highly recommend - Deborah Madison's book, thanks for the reminder :)

          1. re: LNG212

            I would like to +3 the Bittman book. It is indeed comprehensive, and while I have read some reviews on this board complaining that he takes short-cuts, changes classic dishes, etc, I would argue that he teaches his reader to get comfortable in the kitchen. I carried this book around with me for weeks when I first got it, just reading his sections on vegetables, grains, proteins, etc. I found that reading and cooking from his book prepared me to take on the more complicated and more skilled recipes in my vegetarian Indian, Italian, etc. cookbooks.

            It's a great resource for beginner cooks without being gimmicky or condescending. Things are spelled out, but he encourages his reader to experiment. His suggestions for stock and grains especially changed my vegetarian cooking.

            1. re: LNG212

              +1 on Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. It's my go to basic cookbook.

              1. re: LNG212

                Those were the 2 that immediately came to mind.

            2. re: santamonica811

              I also would highly recommend Bittman's book. This one book will open up an entire world of possibilities plus it has all the basic recipes for everything from pie crusts to bread to how to cook rice or make salad dressing.

              1. re: santamonica811

                Also agree with the Bittman book. It's the book I use most in my almost vegetarian kitchen. It's a big book, but it's an easy read if your dad wanted to sit down and flip though it. No pictures though, but tons of descriptions of how things should look, smell, taste, and feel throughout stages of cooking. The book also has so many suggestions and alternatives-- in the beginning I saw it as a cookbook, but now that I've made so many recipes from it, I see it as a guide. I also like his desserts very much. A little bit different than the norm, but easily do-able and nothing too over the top or complicated. I've made the ricotta cheesecake and I think a pudding recipe that came out excellent.

                One of my favorite features is the "lexicons." Bittman maps out charts of different catergories (grains, seeds, nuts, oils, spices) and points out the best uses, sub, cooking times, etc. It's so great to flip open to a page and a see a whole list of exactly what you're looking for.

              2. I'm going to be the annoying jerk that says not to get a cookbook.

                I'd suggest some kitchen appliance/tool, and if there are plenty in the kitchen, one of those services/program/shares where you can get weekly/monthly produce. The former is great since you're getting the man the tools he needs to get the job done (or do a better job)! The latter is saying to the man, "Here, make something out of this," which is something I love hearing as a cook. Having new/mystery/exotic ingredients is an opportunity to be creative, is a lot of fun and is a gift that goes beyond the Holiday season.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ediblover

                  I think just giving him a bunch of produce is a bad idea, especially if a) he has to provide something edible at the end and b) they're on a budget and can't afford food waste. It takes a reasonable amount of skill and experience before you can be confident that you'll find a random ingredient and make something tasty. Great if the guy is freeform; not so much if he's looking for step-by-step instructions and reliable recipes.

                  My problem with getting a generic cookbook is that the majority of the vegetarian dishes are side dishes and certainly not really what I would consider meal centrepieces. The Bittman book sounds good, and Indian cookery is a good source of vegetarian meals which inspire me to cook.

                  Good luck to your dad and I hope he enjoys his cooking adventures!

                2. As much as I have some problems with the editing of Madison's book, I do think it is fairly encompassing, and recommend it for a new veg. cook.

                  1. Wow! Thanks for the quick replies and some great ideas! My dad does enjoy cooking, experimenting, and he took over the cooking when he retired because he wanted to and had the time. I've heard of the Bittman and Madison books, and will check the others out. I also think my mom would appreciate the change of pace an Indian cookbook might bring.

                    And I hadn't thought of the produce idea, but when I previously took part in a farm-share, I would give him some of my share to experiment with and he'd get pretty excited about that, so I might look into that to see if any of our local farms do anything year-round, or near year-round, anyway...

                    Definitely some ideas to think about--Thank you all!

                    1. the recipes in Seven Secrets Cookbook by Neva and Jim Brackett are easy to follow - and, tasty.

                      I'm cooking my way through this cookbook and it's all delicious... Chili with Corn, Eggplant Chili, Armenian Lentil Soup, Oat Burgers, Tofu Scramble, Stacked Enchilada Bake, Coconut Ice Cream, Pumpkin Pie, Maple Nut Granola, Light and Tender Waffles, Oven Hash Browns, Creamed Potatoes and Peas

                        1. Bittman's book is very comprehensive (maybe too comprehensive) and an excellent resource. I also like Chez Panisse Vegetables, although it isn't strictly vegetarian. I've never had a bad result with anything I've made from it, and the recipes are very easy to follow.

                          1. Another book - not strictly vegetarian but every recipe has a veg. version - that I just love is Flexitarian Table.. I've had some truly great meals from that book (my favorite tofu recipe of all time is in it).

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: LulusMom

                              I really liked Flexitarian Table (have liked all of Berley's books I've had) and really, really wish I could remember who I loaned it to. <grumble>

                            2. I recently bought "The Vegetarian Option", Simon Hopkinson, but (please note) haven't cooked from it yet. The pictures, though, are making me crazy! I think it would inspire anyone headed in that
                              ( meatless) direction.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: blue room

                                I have this book (thanks MMRuth!) but haven't had a chance to cook from it either. But I love his other books, and can't wait to try this one.

                              2. another +1, this time for Moosewood - totally forgot about it!

                                also, i meant to ask this yesterday, does he use a computer? there are some really great blogs with relatively easy & delicious vegetarian recipes that he can check out once he gets more comfortable in the kitchen. Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks is a terrific blog in general, and she's got tons of vegetarian & vegan recipes...

                                and the Vegetarian Times website is another great resource:

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  I love Vegetarian Times- I order subscriptions all the time as gifts. It's a great magazine for meat eaters too, since lots of the dishes work well as sides.

                                  1. re: cheesecake17

                                    i got hooked on when back when i was vegetarian, and i still love it now.

                                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    I love Veg Times too. I've had a subscription for years.

                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                      It won't take much, but convince me I should subscribe to Veg. times. I miss Gourmet, and BA just doesnt' cut it. For some reason Food and Wine never hits the spot either. I'd love to have another cooking mag to look forward to, but nothing seems worth the money.Tell me some favorite recipes you've gotten from VT over the past few years.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        Take a look at their website- they post a lot of recipes on there. I can't think of specific recipe that I've made- but I love their soup recipes. The appetizer and dip recipes have always been successes for parties. Recipes that seem simple are always flavorful and have lots of different flavors going on. I like the special sections- packable lunches, new uses for leftovers, dishes to freeze, seasonal salads. It's nice to see a whole bunch of recipes that follow a theme in one place.

                                        Another feature that I like is the "highlighted" ingredient. The editors write up about an ingredient that's not so typical or not a Western ingredient and include ideas and recipes and how to sub it for things you may already use. It's interesting to read about.. and it turns out that most of these ingredients are things easily available and not terribly expensive.

                                        Also, all recipes has nutrition info. Some recipes have gluten free, dairy free, or vegan modifications. Plus the photos are fantastic.

                                          1. re: LulusMom

                                            Anytime :)

                                            BTW- best price is on amazon.com. They usually offer 1 year for $12 and sometimes 2 years for $19

                                    2. Another vote for Madison. Also, India has a strong tradition of vegetarian cooking. If your Dad likes Indian food, a good book to get him would be Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: cheesemaestro

                                        If he ever wants to try some videos then Manjula's Kitchen is *the* place to start.

                                        Production values are utilitarian but the step by step easy-to-replicate instructions are done with craft and care by a charming down to earth individual.


                                      2. "Field of Greens" is wonderful for tasty food -although it doesn't teach you basic cooking skills. Most of the recipes do not require high tech skills, just commitment to quality ingredients.